To visit Erica Arcia in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit, you first have to don a sterile gown and mask. Then you step through one door, making sure that it seals behind you. Step through the second door of the isolation room and you're standing at Arcia's bedside.
Beyond her bed, past the IV drips and monitors, a Scratch-Lite, or decorated sheet of black paper, hangs in the window. Sunlight streams through the curlicue designs Arcia has scratched out and illuminates three handwritten words: Love. Hope. Courage. "I've never been into art that much," Arcia said on a recent morning. "That's why I love the program so much, because it brings out a lot of things in yourself that you don't think you have."
Arcia was talking about Art for Health, a donor-funded program that is part of Guest Services at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. With its support, she not only did the work hanging in her window, but other projects as well. When art facilitator Trish McDonald held up one of Arcia's watercolor paintings, Arcia beamed. "I painted that not too long ago, when I was starting to feel like I was in a better place," Arcia, a 28-year-old mother of three, said about the mountain landscape. "I call it 'Clear Path,' because I was starting to see my way through everything."
Monday through Saturday, McDonald and facilitators Nili Helman-Caspi and Michael Smit, along with volunteers Priya Handa and Hyuna Lee, push their crayon- and pastel-laden "art carts" up and down hospital hallways, to visit patients on every nursing floor. They respond to requests made by patients, family members, nurses, chaplains and physicians. They also knock on doors spontaneously, to see if anyone wants to try his hand at gouache, or opaque watercolor, creations. Or they offer up oval, square and hexagonal boxes for decorating.
"We might say, 'If you have a wish, a thought, a fear, just put it in the box and close it up,' " said Linh Dang, arts program coordinator for SHC.